“As students finish their studies, most won’t think of a career in research,” says Environmental Sciences Lecturer, Dr Ross Hill. “But it can open up a whole world of opportunities.”
Manager of the UTS Careers Service, Malcolm McKenzie, agrees. “Not many undergraduate students come into the Careers Service asking about Master or Doctoral degrees by research.”
Not so for Hill. “Once I completed my PhD at UTS, I planned to continue my research and teaching career by applying for postdoctoral positions.”
In 2008 Hill secured a prestigious Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at UTS. He now works within the Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster (C3), one of UTS’s leading research strength centres.
Hill says, “From a young age I had a passion for the environment and an interest in the sea. I wanted to be actively involved in curbing the human impact on the environment. The research I’m doing now is helping us protect our planet as I’m developing methods to adapt to the effects of climate change.”
As the higher education sector faces looming staff shortages, McKenzie believes it’s an ideal time to consider a research career. “The federal government has committed to increasing access to higher education to ensure that by 2025, 40 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds will hold a bachelor degree or higher.
“When you balance this increasing demand with an ageing academic workforce, now is a great time to consider a career in academia.”
School Manager at the University Graduate School, Lucy Jones, says a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) will not only help you hone your skills, but give you a real taste of what a research career entails.
“A Master by Research degree takes two years full-time, or four years part-time and a Doctoral degree takes four years full-time, or eight years part-time. Each degree is made up of at least two-thirds research, so you’ll really get to find out what it’s like to immerse yourself in a specific project.”
She adds, “Many people who decide to do a degree by research are motivated by a real love of their topic. In a lot of cases, the choice to consider or undertake a research degree is suggested by an academic who has worked with the individual during their first degree.
“Academic success is important, and during these degrees students rely on a good relationship with their academic supervisor to act as a mentor and academic guide.”
The University Graduate School provides students with plenty of support. This includes scholarships, researcher and supervisor development workshops, assistance with HDR applications and network building.
Jones says it’s never too late to consider a career change. “Many research degree students continue straight from undergraduate study, but many have also worked in industry and have decided they want to return to university to focus on research.
“And once you’ve completed your degree, there are plenty of employment options in academia, industry or government.”
For Hill, his top choice was always academia. “My work activities are very diverse with a mix of field trips, lab work, teaching, and of course, writing. However, the most inspiring aspect of my work is that it brings me to the forefront of scientific discovery and this is a very rewarding place to be.”
For more information about research degrees, visit www.gradschool.uts.edu.au
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Photographer (engineer and nurses): Chris Bennett
Photographer (scientist): Joanne Saad